Anyone with 10,000 square feet of empty, clean warehouse space with a truck dock is asked to call Pastor Eric Johns at the Buffalo Dream Center. He would love to talk with you. Johns needs a warehouse in a hurry.
Right now, and for a few more days, the Dream Center charity mission is storing its donations of food, clothing, furniture and appliances in warehouse at the Larkin Center of Commerce. The building owners have provided the space free of charge for four years, but the charity is now becoming a victim of Larkinville’s success. What once was empty real estate space is now home to offices and other paying tenants, and the Dream Center has to move on.
“This is nothing against the Larkin Center,” Johns said. “They have been great to us, but they are filling up.”
Johns said the mission was given 45 days notice to find new space and did not expect it to be a problem. Two local developers have even been helping in the search.
The catch, of course, is the space needs to be donated. The Dream Center, which helps families and individuals when their lives become desperate, doesn’t make money from its services.
And now, time is running out. They have to relocate in the next week or two.
Clients lined up at the center’s Mobile Food Pantry truck on Lafayette at Barton on the upper West Side on Friday found extra frozen foods alongside the cereal, apple juice and canned goods in their grocery bags.
“We’re emptying the freezers since we have to move,” Johns said.
The truck is the only mobile food pantry in the area that goes right to the neighborhoods, making once-a-month stops at six places to deliver stopgap groceries that will keep a household eating for a few days.
But before it can go out, it needs a place to fill up.
“We started in a two-bedroom apartment, and now we are in a 6,000-square-foot distribution space and working with dozens of other programs,” Johns said.
Having 10,000 square feet of space would be a blessing; if they can get 20,000 square feet, they would share the space with Hearts for the Homeless, which has a mobile soup kitchen and thrift shop.
Throughout the year, Johns estimates, the Dream Center serves about 22,000 individuals, including those helped in its big holiday push, when families get gifts along with the food and when Johns lives among Buffalo’s homeless for a week to bring attention to their needs.
There is a newer group, too, that they are serving, and it comes with its own challenges.
“We are dealing with a lot of refugee families now,” Johns said. “Their diet is completely different, so we make special bags for them.”
Along with the monthly food drop-off program, Dream Center volunteers make weekly visits to homes in what Johns calls “high-risk” situations, helping provide services, food, furnishings and other support so families can stay together.
As the deadline nears to vacate the Larkin space, Johns remains optimistic.
“I’m not worried,” he said. “I think once the community knows about our need, it will respond.”